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Where Are the Pioneers?

Tony Portell

Tony Portell

Pastor, Life Church Indianapolis
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Pioneer  (noun) a person who is among the first to explore a new country or area.
Synonyms: frontiersman/frontierswoman, explorer, trailblazer, discoverer

To launch a successful church, you are going to need pioneers.

Some folks are settlers. They are looking for a permanent building, established programs for children and teens, steady Bible studies, and clear growth tracks to build their faith. They tend to focus on what is offered rather than what could be.

Pioneers are the people who start these things. They want to be on the ground floor. They can see a picture of what could be and are willing to do the hard work of turning vision into reality. They are willing to meet in homes, do set up and tear down, hand out flyers and share vision, and experiment, a lot!  

Pioneers can see a picture of what could be and are willing to do the hard work of turning vision into reality.

Once you have something stable, the settlers will come. But before that, you have to build. If you are a church planter, you are most likely looking for a few more pioneers to join you as you set out on this journey.

So, who are these pioneers?
Many pioneers are on college campuses. College students are at a stage in their life where they often love adventure and have time and energy to invest.

Entrepreneurs are pioneers. They appreciate and understand the risk of starting something new. I have met many business people who get behind the church with their resources and involvement.

Your neighbors and the people you interact with on a daily basis in retail and service businesses may be potential pioneers.

You might find them right next door in apartment complexes in your community. People who live in apartments tend to be in transition in life and have most likely moved within the last year.

Many pioneers are people sitting quietly in churches. They are bored, underutilized and waiting to use their gifts to serve God in a more challenging way. Their hearts will leap at the opportunity to be involved in planting a new church in their neighborhood.

I’m not suggesting going out just looking for Christians. Part of your task is to not only cast vision for the church, but also for God’s kingdom, helping connect them with Jesus. You may even find it easier to build with people who are new to faith. They know more people who need Jesus and you do not usually have to deconstruct their previous church experiences and doctrines.

How do you meet these pioneers?
As you have probably guessed, this involves getting out of the house and engaging with people. It means waking up every day and asking God to guide you to the people who are open and have a pioneering spirit.

When I first talked to my coach, Steve Sjogren, about wanting to plant an outwardly focused church, he challenged me to talk to ten people every day in public places like coffee shops and bookstores and to share my vision.

One day sitting in a local restaurant I noticed the line was getting long and I saw an opportunity to do a little servant outreach. I asked the manager if I could purchase 20 cups of coffee and hand them out to the people waiting in line, so they could get a cup of coffee while they waited. As I gave out the cups, I simply said, “this is a gift from Life Church.” Many people stopped by my table to thank me and it led to several discussions about the church we were planting.

We’ve also thrown outdoor parties and BBQs at nearby apartment complexes. I sometimes go door to door to simply ask people if they want prayer. Recently, I had about an hour free so I stopped by and knocked on five doors. Four of the residents were at home and were happy to have me pray for them.

How do you invite pioneers into your vision?
As you make more contact with people, invite them over for a meal, share your dreams for your community. Constantly paint a picture of how the kingdom can impact our world.

You have to captivate people with the adventure of seeing lives changed, families restored, and neighborhoods impacted by the love of God. This is not hype; it should be the real passion that spills out of you at every opportunity.

You have to captivate people with the adventure of seeing lives changed, families restored, and neighborhoods impacted by the love of God..

Most of the time people are not aware they are pioneers until someone casts a vision challenging enough to cause them to want to step out and join you in the journey.

When you effectively impart your vision to a pioneer, they make it their own and begin to share it with others, thus accelerating it toward reality.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men and women to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Lead on trailblazer!

Read Stories of Church Planting Pioneers

Learn about church planters who are transforming their local communities with diverse expressions of Vineyard churches.

Tony Portell is the pastor of Life Church Indianapolis, a Vineyard Church with two campuses.  He also serves on the Department of Mental Health’s Crisis Response Team and as a Fire Department Chaplain. He holds degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Tony is an entrepreneur having started and franchised businesses nationally and internationally, a mission organization and four churches.  He is married to Lori and they have two children and two grandchildren.

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